Inside Lines: Caborn is going, but is Campbell coming?

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The Independent Online

"I've heard of running for election, but this is ridiculous," gasped the ever-game Sports Minister, Richard Caborn, aged 61, as he completed his training for this morning's London Marathon.

"I've heard of running for election, but this is ridiculous," gasped the ever-game Sports Minister, Richard Caborn, aged 61, as he completed his training for this morning's London Marathon.

Actually, the real election issue surrounding the event has little to do with 5 May, but everything to do with 6 July, when London's other marathon - that for the right to host the 2012 Olympics - will hit the finishing tape.

With 80 days to go, today's race is a unique shop window, demonstrating how well London can organise and promote one of the world's largest sporting spectaculars. The weekend also sees the last big opportunity for London's bid team to make their pitch at the largest pre-vote gathering of IOC members, around 30 in all, before decision time in Singapore.

The five bidding cities will be given 10 minutes apiece tomorrow at Berlin's annual convention for international federations, Sport Accord. Caborn hopes to be in Singapore, but whether it is with his sport portfolio still tucked under his arm is doubtful. Like his boss, Tessa Jowell, he is expected to be moved on should Labour get back, and while both could be retained for continuity until London's fate is decided, it is more likely they will be given the trip as a thank you for their own Olympian bid efforts, with a new team in place.

However, if the Prime Minister is as serious about sport as he would have us believe, he should quickly scotch the scary rumour that Caborn's fellow marathon man, Alastair Campbell, will be given a peerage and with it the sports ministry. Surely not?

Chirac seeks a royal 'oui' for Paris bid

The French president, Jacques Chirac, doesn't miss a trick when it comes to making sure that fast-finishing London does not overtake Paris on the road to Singapore. That's why last week he was being especially nice to Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah, whom he received at the Elysée Palace.

The old Gallic smoothie knows that the Saudis, through their long-standing sporting Memorandum of Understanding with Britain, which has seen 500 events and many exchanges of coaches, are leaning towards London for 2012. Doubtless much sweet-talking went into the royal ear, with the Islamic vote a potentially decisive factor.

Most other Arab nations are believed to be favouring Paris, but Chirac would like to win over the influential Saudis, too. Tony Blair is understood have written personally to them all, but, as with George Bush, Iraq has made him about as popular in the Muslim world as a bacon sandwich.

"What they'd much rather have is a phone call from a royal like Prince Charles," we were told by an old Arab hand.

Palestinians put faith in Israeli coach

Among the 10,000 accredited competitors, officials and VIPs gathered in Saudi Arabia for the Islamic Games last week there was, remarkably, one Israeli. Moreover he was coaching the revived football team from Palestine, the beleaguered state with whom his own nation has an uneasy truce after four years of occupation and bloody intifada. But although an Israeli citizen, Amzi Nasser is an Arab, a 38-year-old former player with Haifa who helped lay the foundations for the current Palestinian team in the 1990s. He has now been given special dispensation by the Israelis to resume as coach after the conflict which has claimed the lives of 3,000 Palestinians, among them their top midfielder Tarek Al-Quto.

Now that sport has made its debut in the holy citadel of Mecca, how long will it be before the entire Middle East becomes a sporting Mecca itself? The princes and potentates, sheikhs and movers who rule those regions clearly see it as a way to woo the world, and promote peace.

In countries where money and space seem limitless, and labour is cheap, facilities are springing up that take the breath away. Dubai, Qatar, and now Saudi Arabia are attracting a host of prestigious international events. We hear Jordan plans big things, too. Prince Faisal has been touring half the world to promote Jordan's sporting aspirations, beginning with next month's international motor rally. "These are ambitious times for Jordan in many areas, none more so than sport," he says. "Our goal is to make people feel sport is an essential part of their lives." This weekend he is at the Sport Accord in Berlin, renewing his friendship with Seb Coe, an IAAF councillor who could be influential in Jordan's aim to get the 2014 Asian Games.

It transpires that before Jose Mourinho moved on to do a bit of referee-baiting with Chelsea, his old club Porto were involved in some referee-bribing.

A judge probing corruption in Portuguese football has found the European champions' president, Pinto de Costa, "personally responsible" for bribing a referee and assistants with prostitutes. It is reported by the newspaper Expresso that Costa paid for hookers in attempt to benefit Porto in a January 2004 league match against Amadora. Apparently the officials confessed to accepting these sexual services at a Porto hotel. Mourinho was in charge of the team but was not implicated, and on that occasion never saw anyone enter the referee's room...